Archive for the ‘Seeking Help’ Category

2015 Resolution – Reflect on Conservation

January 3, 2015

Progress on reducing my direct carbon footprint

Following on my conceptualization for the solution to reducing my direct carbon footprint (this analysis), here is the year in review:

Reduction. I think my theme for 2015 needs to be reflection on conservation, and its nuances.

In previous New Years posts I have tracked our car milage and was pleased to see our progress reducing miles driven. Alas, the reduction was lost in 2014. The lesson: bike/walking to reduce miles in town is easily overwhelmed by driving out of town, which should be obvious, it takes quite a few avoided short trips in town to equal the milage of one trip out of town.

2012 miles 2013 miles 2014 miles
Krista’s car (red) 7927 6313 7370
My car (white) 5241 2336 4472
My pickup (blue) 1059 2078 1576
Prius (silver) new 12/4/14
totals  14227  10727  13418

My friend Stephen has a longer dataset and can demonstrate real progress reducing his driving, so it is possible.

spaeth carbon wedge car

In our cars, reduced use requires constant vigilance. In contrast, the area of lawn I mow is being reduced steadily by orchards, gardens and landscaping at the Cookhouse. I haven’t used the 15-year old riding lawn mower/snowblower in 12 months. Since, I’ve proven its possible to manage what is left without the rider, it needs to go away this spring.

Another notable experiment in reduction was to put a timer on our hot water heater. Now we make hot water for morning showers and again for evening dishes. While the savings from not maintaining hot water is small, we have proven in the past 6 months that we don’t lack for hot water when we want it. This experiment needs more study. For example, can we time the water heater so we use up much of the hot water and only store tepid water (rather than having the water heater reheat the water we just used and then storing that hot water)?

Substitution. Another of the strategies to reduce my direct carbon footprint is to substitute technologies.

The Cookhouse was built with all LED lighting and I thought I was done converting the Barn, but the other day I found one more CFL — a small one in a reading lamp. The house is partly converted, the Kitchen, family room and bathrooms are done.

My efforts at substituting LED lighting for CFLs are producing limited results; my home electric bill is not going down much (if at all), because the refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher and electric dryer are such a large fraction of the use that they overwhelm the savings in the lighting.

The used Prius that Krista will drive in place of the “red” car appears to give her 40+mpg vs the previous 25+mpg in “red car,” so if we can hold the miles driven steady, it should be a decrease in fuel used.

Replacement. The oven in our gas stove died last spring and (sigh) there are no parts to repair a 10 year old stove. The process of deciding has been slow, but we are headed toward an induction stove, all electric. The decision process was explored in this column. Replacing this appliance will produce a permanent decrease in our direct use of carbon, but a small one compared to the gas water heater. I’m having the electrician get me ready to do the water heater, but can’t afford that change yet.

While the 15 year old gas lawn mower is still running, I’m considering replacing it with an electric one. Since I’m not sure how that will work in when the grass grows fast in the spring, I’ll keep the gas one around for another season.

Generation. I have some more data on the impact of the solar air heater in the Cookhouse. My previous report was from a short duration observation. Now I have a year’s worth of data which appears to show April, May & June readings with less consumption than heating degree days would predict. Since the structure is still unoccupied the only energy use is for heating. Goals for 2015 are getting hot water preheating going in the Cookhouse and in our house. This data are also encouraging me to develop solar air heating to supplement in the barn.

849 electric usage

Electric heating in the Cookhouse for 2014

Next Steps in Finding My Role

August 25, 2011

I have been watching the University of Idaho job listings site and in the last 6 months have not seen an opportunity that I recognized fit my skills, interests and qualifications. This has led me to realize that most of my employment history was guided by mentors & patrons who helped me find opportunities that were more-or-less created to match me.

I’ve given myself a learning task of answering:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What do I like to do?
  3. What do I want to do with my life?
  4. Who should I be talking to about this?

I have been fumbling toward the answer to #3 this spring: Community sustainability in the face of the multiple challenges we face is my broad answer [see What now about climate change]. These interests are probably a circle that connects to or encompasses the focus of the University of Idaho Sustainability initiative. My application for GM at the Moscow Food Co-op job gave a vantage to work on a subset of the problem: community food sustainability. It was interesting because it had a variety of resources at its disposal to work on the issue. Developing South of Downtown Moscow is another subset of the problem — creating more urban land use and development. Moscow Ecovillage, the idea that Christie Beery is exploring is a different take that integrates land use and collaborative living. I connect My Own Home‘s focus on independent living for an aging population to the sustainability notion in terms of less dependence on institutional care. The Transition Town movement is another angle, an effort to build organizations to support community-wide transition to a new energy and climate future.

Who should I be talking to about these ideas?

Sharpening focus on my job search

April 6, 2011

I started writing this blog post a week ago to help me think about what I wanted to do next (which might be my next job). One of the things it has helped me articulate is the kind of job that attracts me is one with problems to solve that I find interesting. More and more, the problems that seem interesting are ones that touch on some aspect of community sustainability. It might work out that its a politcal problem or an infrastructural one or creating something new, but at the end of the day, I think I want to be able to look and say I helped make our community a more sustainable place in ways that impact the quality of people’s lives and the success of our city.

As a result of reflection on my job search so far, here are some things I believe about Jobs I’m Not Interested In:

Out of town on-site work: I got an interview for a job in Lewiston and found another that looked challenging, but both required 40 hrs in Lewiston. Add commute time and I will be effectively isolating myself from the Moscow community. I did this kind of commuter work for two years in Oregon and found I was not a member of the town where I worked or the one where I slept. Conclusion: Engaging with Moscow community is an important a value.

Field Organizer for the Idaho Democratic Party: I am more interested in working on the problems that Moscow faces locally and think these will be better addressed by non-partisan local organizing. Conclusion: Focus is wrong for the kind of work I think is important.

Organization with antithetical mission: I got an interview as a grant writer with an organization that engages in research related to an number of areas that are not sustainable. They are trying to green those technologies, but it strikes me that they are trapped in an assumption, because of their discipline, that the technologies are warranted. It certainly seems that their work is not at the heart of what I understand sustainability for Moscow to mean. Conclusion: Make sure the focus is squarely on the problems as I understand them and the problems are situated within the scope of my community.

Computing support: Lots of people think I’m a computer guy. In the 90’s I did quite a bit of that, but I don’t stick my head under the hood much anymore. Conclusion: Computers and networks as platforms to aid individuals and communities in learning and problem-solving are where my interest lie. I’m not interested in the problems of fixing them.

Buying BookPeople: Its been suggested that I buy BookPeople. An interesting way to get a job, certainly beats trying to start a new business. I had a tiny role in Twice Sold Tales back in the early 90s, enough to know that I don’t see book stores as a problem I want to solve.

Schweitzer. I’ve looked at their jobs list. I even applied for a couple jobs (they have a super easy application process that is equally fast at rejecting me). Improving the power grid has some important sustainability implications, but the jobs I’ve seen are not focused on aiding our community. I’ve not tried again because I don’t see them describing a problem that interests me.

Working for WSU: I’ve worked there 26 years and because I just retired from there, they will only take me back 40% time and only in special cases. Pullman is close enough to still be connected to Moscow community. Right now they don’t seem to have any problems they are interested in my help solving.

Updating my resume to reflect who I am

December 7, 2010

WSU is providing me the opportunity to reflect on who I am and what I want to do, and importantly, how to communicate those ideas. As I previously noted, a resume (here) spanning 30 years of work is poorly suited to either communicate the themes of that work or to span the transition in that work from print journals to blogs and wikis. For example, here is a whiteboard where I tried to capture a timeline of the ideas and problems I was working on across my work life and personal life from 2000 to 2008.

Left end of whiteboard timeline small Right end of whiteboard timeline small

The last two years, working on the Harvesting Gradebook, has had me thinking about the impact of the Internet on learning and higher education as presently constituted. My focus swings between learners getting feedback to aid the learning and learning being credentialed (assessment for and of learning).

I am not formally credentialed for almost all the work I’ve done in the last 30 years — my credentials from that work  and are community based.

Jayme Community CredentialJacobson created this graphic to help describe four different model implementations of the university. I now see the bottom right element of that graphic has a problem (reproduced at left). Regarding credentialing it says “the employer gets what they help design.”

But what if the learner is trying to join a community that hasn’t designed credentialing criteria? What if the learner is trying to forge a community around a problem?

That is my situation. I have a variety of experiences, but they are not specific to the new “sustainable Moscow” work that is my passion. I need a way to create a CV that converts my experiences into credentials that a new community values.

Building an advocacy action community

April 6, 2009

This is an extension to my previous thinking on creating an online community/Center for Teaching and Learning. To think more about the issue of creating online community around a problem, I’m beginning a dialog with the Western Watersheds Project a non-profit group who’s mission is “to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation.”

I just sent a note to to explore how to get WWP news into their site. This offers some potential for high profile exposure for news about WWP successes, such as the recent Federal Court Order requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a status review as to whether the Big Lost River Whitefish deserves Endangered Species Act protection.

Some of the news stories I read on HuffPost are ‘reprints’ that link back to the source’s website. What would be interesting to know is how to syndicate WWP news to HuffPost and bring readers back to the WWP site.

A number of sites I visit have links near stories inviting users to use Digg, or other services to highlight stories. This is a way to promote one of the “teach Google” strategies, and it has the potential to raise the profile of WWP news pieces so that it show up better in searches. I don’t know the exact mechanism for adding this to WWP’s site, but I expect its fairly straight-forward.

I use the social bookmarking tool Diigo, less popular that Delicious, but it has some group features that are more enhanced. If WWP were to adopt a social bookmarking tool it could be used to point at items across that web that were of interest to WWP members. Further, it would generate an RSS feed of those items that could be placed on the WWP site. The Diigo group mechanism would allow a collaborative effort in gathering these related links.

The reason to do this, and the focus for it, would be to help build the community around WWP issues. A previous strategy I proposed was to find high ground (e.g., Wikipedia) and announce where a community could be found. There are some pointers to WWP’s work in Wikipedia, so I’ve been thinking more about how distributed and disaggregated communities actually are (I suppose this is a comment on how long the long tail is). A person like Stephen Downes reads, comments on, and synthesizes parts of what is going on in the community, but he does not get me in touch with all I find important. So, I think another part of the strategy is to make your own site rich in pointers to other parts of the community. The challenge is to do this without spending the amount of energy that Downes spends, hence the idea for a bookmarking/commenting group. Our own CTLT & Friends is beginning to get a little of this traction.

Since there are several bloggers who write about WWP-related items, another part of the strategy should be to merge the RSS of their blogs (or some tags in their blogs) with the RSS from the bookmarking site to make a richer mix. Yahoo Pipes will do this with a fairly high degree of control.

Finally, in thinking about what to do with new eyeballs arriving at the WWP site, I looked on I’m not very familiar with that site, but am considering how WWP might use and post opportunities for volunteer efforts. For example, here is a potential example for a group of voluneteers — a mapping party. They are mapping an urban landscape, but WWP could use a similar approach.

Do you have any insights that might help me sharpen this analysis?

Seeking advice in a transition

March 10, 2009

Washington State University is on the eve of its 10 year accreditation visit by NWCCU and my sense from reading Standard 2 (teaching and learning) is that WSU appears to still be struggling with
what it means to close the assessment loop..

Concurrently, the university is proposing a 50% budget cut for its Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology that has produced this supplement, highlighted in the accreditation report as Transformative Assessment.

The University is proposing to re-organize the remainder of CTLT into the Office of Academic Efficiency. Looking around the web, it appears that other campuses are undergoing a similar transition. Awhile back I proposed creating the Planet’s CTL. Concurrent with that blog post, CTLT started a blog at WordPress, that has garnered considerable critical attention, and a group in Diigo. There are a several portfolios of our work hosted on CTLT servers that may need to be moved if CTLT servers are going away: ePortfolio of CTLT ePortfolios; a portfolio of our LMS work and its Web 2.0 directions prepared for a Gartner visit; two ePortfolio contests 2006-07 and 2007-08 using SharePoint with some important lessons about Workspace vs Showcase and the recently produced Transformative Assessment site for the accreditation visit.

What would you recommend?